Sherri Saum on the impact of “The Fosters” and the end of lesbian bed death

Last year, a new family moved in to Monday nights and managed to steal our hearts. The Fosters, produced by Jennifer Lopez, focuses on the lives of Stef and Lena Foster, a lesbian couple and their brood of children, both biological and adopted. Sherri Saum stars as the kind and understanding Lena, who runs the house with a gentle hand and heart.

AfterEllen caught up with Sherri soon after The Fosters took home the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Drama Series. She was as gracious and lovely to speak with as you could possibly imagine. 

25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards - Dinner and Show

AfterEllen: You looked radiant at the recent GLAAD awards, and congrats on the Outstanding Drama series award. Was it your first time at the event?

Sherri Saum: It was our second time there, but it was amazing that we were nominated for best drama, especially with the company we were in. We were against some nice competition there and it was shocking and awesome that they chose us.

AE: Awesome, and not so shocking at least from this perspective—

SS: [laughs]

AE: —but congratulations nonetheless. There seems to be a tremendous amount of respect and camaraderie between you and your co-star Teri Polo. That of course shines through in the connection between Lena and Stef. How do you approach your scenes together?

SS: You know, you just never know in this business who you’re going to be teamed up with, how it’s going to work out, your styles. Sometimes you just like to rehearse a bunch and sometimes other actors don’t, so you have to kind of fend for yourself. Teri and I, for some reason, the cosmos just kind of aligned. We just roll together like an old married couple who’ve been together forever. I don’t know how it happened! [laughs] We are so opposite is so many ways but we also have all these shocking things in common, and it’s just a perfect little mix. And thank goodness, because it translates.

25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards - Dinner and Show

AE: It certainly does and I’m sure a huge part of the reason why the show is as successful as it has been is because of that connection between the two of you.

SS: I don’t know how much credit we can actually take but it was a real testament that we were recognized by GLAAD, the very people that we are trying to represent in an accurate light. So far so good!

AE: Lena has had a number of powerful, stand-out scenes with Jude. What character would you like to see Lena have more scenes with in the upcoming season and can we look forward to more of those really touching Lena/Jude scenes?

SS: I think so. A lot of things are becoming clear. For instance, Lena has a highly developed maternal instinct, but she’s never had biological children, as much as she loves all her children. I feel like maybe of all the kids in the house, she feels like Jude is probably the most lost they’ve ever had, and the most in need of a real mother figure, as much as Callie is there for him. I feel Lena feels this very strong connection to him as he’s just lost in a lot of ways. She’s fulfilling a need for him and vice versa. As far as other characters, I’d also like to explore the relationship with Brandon a little more, which actually is coming to fruition in season two. He’s really such a great character. He’s starting to burst out of his mold as the “good guy, the perfect child” and finding all kinds of trouble to get into. So it might just be great timing for Lena to step in and try to finesse that whole bit.

AE: Your character Lena is a terrific mom who adores her kids. Yet in the latter part of the season she expresses a tremendous yearning to have her own biological child. Why do you think that pull is so strong for her? 

SS: I feel like it really is a biological thing. In real life I have friends that just don’t have that pull and some who absolutely do. It’s a very personal, personal thing and it can be triggered at any time. I do think Jude triggered it in her, because like I said, of all the different ways that we acquired our children, Jude came to us in a sort of way was just so vulnerable and really, really Lena filled that need for him and awakened something in her, I think. I think that’s what happened.

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AE: I hadn’t thought about it that way, but that puts a lot of things into perspective.

SS: Yeah.

AE: The Fosters has been a life-changing show for people. Were you prepared for that outpouring of love? How has it affected you personally?

SS: Absolutely not prepared in any way, shape or form. I mean, it was a great script and a special show and when I saw it was on ABC Family, I was a little like, “I wonder how they’re going to handle this?” But right from the get go I knew that they weren’t afraid and it was going to be something different, I just didn’t know how it was going to be embraced. I did the double whammy of joining the Twitter-sphere and now I’m really able to see directly the impact we’ve had. It’s been tremendous. It’s been so humbling to see fourteen-year-old kids that say, “Oh my god I was finally able to tell my mom. I was scared but she took it ok.” I mean, that’s huge. Because that could have just not come to pass. This kid could have lived, how many years without telling anyone and suffering. It’s just really huge.

AE: I’ve always thought that ABC Family does so much more than people even realizes for the LGBT community, both kids and adults. It blows my mind all the time, the amazing shows they come up with, the storylines and how sensitively they handle it.

SS: We have incredible writers who you know, walk the walk. We have a ton of material to mine from and they do it so well. I’m constantly shocked about how much better the show keeps getting. A lot of shows start on a high note and make a big splash, then it’s like, “Well, that’s all we’ve got.” But this is coming from a very real place from all of our creators. It’s endless, the stories they have to tell, and I’m so blessed to be part of a show where they do it so well.

AE: So I’m convinced that that Craftmatic adjustable bed is going to be the antagonist in the next season.

SS: [laughs]

AE: I’m sure you’ve seen this on Twitter, but it’s been referred to as the literal “lesbian bed death” by fans. I know you can’t divulge any details about next season but can you give us a little spoiler and let us know if it will meet its fiery demise? 

SS: Well, I put my two cents in with creative as far as that was concerned, and they’ve heard it ALL from the fans. I have a feeling—a very strong and probably accurate gut feeling that the bed has seen its last days.

AE: Hurray!!! You’ve just made all of our days.

SS: I can’t guarantee it but that’s my feeling.

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Season 2 of “The Fosters” premieres on June 16 on ABC Family.

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